It hurts to lose your job. I know: I've lost mine three times. But on the roller-coaster ride of emotions that comes with one of life's big changes, you don't have to go off the rails. In fact, for many people, losing a job is one of the most liberating experiences in their lives.
The first time I was let go was definitely a wake-up call. It hurt. How could a company that I gave so much to just walk me out the door? Although they always say it's "just business," it's difficult not to take it personally. It was so personal to me that I vowed never to be caught by surprise again.
Everyone is wired differently. As a result, your frame of mind will greatly influence how you react to getting laid off. But getting your mindset straight comes easier to some than others. I was lucky. I sought out assistance and landed in the offices of a career transition coach. That decision still pays huge dividends to this day.
Dennis Hobbs is Vice-President, Client Services at Eisen Consulting Group. His organization offers career transition support to those who have recently found themselves out of work and are often in a state of shock. He's someone you meet right after you're hit with the news that your services are no longer required.
"When you lose your job, get selfish, because it's all about you," says Hobbs. "Learn what you can about why it has happened. Take ownership of those aspects in your control and dismiss the others. Then close that chapter and do something for yourself."
With over a decade of career-coaching experience, here are Hobbs' five key strategies for dealing with job loss:
1. Take some time off (if you can) and de-stress
Be polite but non-committal about follow-ups when friends come calling with early opportunities. Buy time for yourself to look honestly at what has happened. Then make an informed and realistic decision about the future.
If you can afford to take time some time off, then do so without guilt. Maybe you have enough saved up to travel. You can do some of the things you've put off because of the time pressures of your previous job. Whatever you choose to do, remember to take some time for yourself to de-stress.
2. Review your finances and personal situation
Revisit your financial plan, skill-set, family circumstances and career goals. See how big your "window" is. Ask yourself how long can you be off work before it affects your lifestyle. Taking control of your affairs will put you in the right frame of mind to move forward.
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3. Negotiate your severance package and settle with your employer
Try to do this amicably. It will pay dividends particularly around:
- how quickly you get back in the game and
- what kind of support or reference you can count on.
4. Be realistic about what you can achieve and when
You may need some help with this, especially if your job loss came after a period of emotion or uncertainty. Training or upgrading your education or skills takes time, so make your plan realistic.
You may not have time or funds to take a college or online courses right away. But you can take small steps by researching your field to find out:
- what job skills employers are looking for,
- which skills are required and
- which ones add value to a company or organization.
Look through job postings and take note of the types of jobs you want. Pay particular attention to the qualifications and tasks that come with these postings. Then ask yourself if your current resume qualifies or if you'll need to upgrade your skills with additional training.
5. Prepare for your job search
Wandering around in today's competitive market without a clear and compelling message will add time and disappointment to your efforts. Seek out your network for informal feedback on your plan before asking for referrals.
I'll admit my first job loss was tough, but the second and third were a cakewalk. The clichés are true: When one door closes another one opens. But the key is to be prepared to knock before you can walk in.
Someone once said, "90% of success is not in showing up. It's in showing up prepared." If you have suffered a job loss, you know exactly what I'm talking about. If you haven't, heed this advice and be prepared.
And finally, to those who are currently in job transition: Hang in there. Things will work out. "People react in a myriad of ways to job loss. But virtually all come to the same place after settling into a new job," says Hobbs. "The majority say that the fit is so much better they cannot imagine why they had so much anxiety at the start."
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